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Social Cognitive Neuroscience


Entry requirements

Only open to MSc Psychology (research) students.


Social cognitive neuroscience is an emerging scientific discipline that attempts to integrate the theories, methods and insights of cognitive psychology, social cognition and cognitive neuroscience. This course is intended to review and discuss state-of-the-art developments in this area, covering issues like self-perception, action perception and interpretation, imitation and the recognition of affect.

Each course meeting aims to provide a deeper insight into the theoretical background of a current research interest – with an emphasis on controversies – and will be based on one or more publications, which either review a substantial body of recent research or make strong statements reflecting the different perspectives on the particular issue. On the basis of further reading assignments, each student will orally present at least one paper (using Power Point), write a blog, and prepare a research proposal, which consists of a critical review of the literature relevant to the chosen topic and recommendations for future research.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, students will have acquired three skills that are essential for experimental researchers working in the area of cognitive neuroscience, namely, they will be able:

  • to distinguish between, and debate about methodological and theoretical developments in the area of social cognitive neuroscience;

  • to develop, communicate, and defend their own opinions;

  • to generate new research ideas and effectively design studies to test those ideas.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.


It is mandatory for all students to register for each exam and to confirm registration for each exam in My Studymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

8 2-hour work group sessions.

Assessment method

The assessment is based on:

  • 25% presentation and discussion-leading;

  • 60% individual research proposal;

  • 15% blog.

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

1. Introduction

Introduction into the main topic and overview. Assignment of presentations, discussion of projects for proposals.

Key readings:

  • Stanley, D.A., & Adolphs, R. (2013). Toward a neural basis for social behavior. Neuron, 80, 816-826.

  • Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Lieberman, M. D. (2012). A geographical history of social cognitive neuroscience. Neuroimage, 61, 432-436.

  • Lockwood, P. L., Apps, M. A., & Chang, S. W. (2020). Is there a ‘social’brain? Implementations and algorithms. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

2. Imitation, mimicry and synchrony

Key paper:

  • Preston, D.S., & de Waal, F., (2002). Empathy: Its ultimate and proximate bases. Behavioral and Brain Science, 25, 1-72

Paper for Presentation by students:

  • Gordon, I., Gilboa, A., Cohen, S. et al. (2020). Physiological and Behavioral Synchrony Predict Group Cohesion and Performance. Sci Rep 10, 8484

  • Van Baaren, R., Janssen, L., Chartrand, T.L., Dijksterhuis, A., (2009). Where is the love? The social aspects of mimicry. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2009) 364, 2381–2389

  • Prochazkova, E., & Kret, M.E., (2017). Connecting minds and sharing emotions through mimicry: A neurocognitive model of emotional contagion. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 80, 99-114

  • Hess, U., (2021) - Who to whom and why: The social nature of emotional mimicry. Psychophysiology, 58, 1-11

3. Cooperation

Key paper:

  • Henrich, J., & Muthukrishna, M. (2021). The origins and psychology of human cooperation. Annual Review of Psychology, 72, 207-240.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Tomasello, M., Melis, A. P., Tennie, C., Wyman, E., & Herrmann, E. (2012). Two key steps in the evolution of human cooperation: The interdependence hypothesis. Current anthropology, 53(6), 673-692.

  • Izuma, K. (2012). The social neuroscience of reputation. Neuroscience research, 72(4), 283-288.

4. Partner Choice

Key paper:

  • Maner, J. K., Kenrick, D. T., Becker, D. V., Robertson, T. E., Hofer, B., Neuberg, S. L., Delton, A. W., Butner, J., Schaller, M. (2005). Functional projection: How fundamental social motives can bias interpersonal perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(1), 63-78.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Lee, A. J., Sidari, M. J., Murphy, S. C., Sherlock, J. M., & Zietsch, B. (2020). Sex differences in misperceptions of sexual interest can be explained by sociosexual orientation and men projecting their own interest onto women. Psychological Science, 31(2), 184-192.

  • Perilloux, C., Easton, J. A., & Buss, D. M. (2012). The misperception of sexual interest. Psychological Science, 23(2), 146-151.

5. Communication

Key paper:

  • Falk, E., & Scholz, C. (2018). Persuasion, influence, and value: Perspectives from communication and social neuroscience. Annual review of psychology, 69, 329-356.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Dunbar, R. I. (2003). The social brain: mind, language, and society in evolutionary perspective. Annual review of Anthropology, 32(1), 163-181.

  • Catani, M., & Bambini, V. (2014). A model for social communication and language evolution and development (SCALED). Current opinion in neurobiology, 28, 165-171.

6. Culture

Key paper:

  • Han, S., Northoff, G., Vogeley, K., Wexler, B. E., Kitayama, S., & Varnum, M. E. (2013). A cultural neuroscience approach to the biosocial nature of the human brain. Annual review of psychology, 64, 335-359.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T., & Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition. Behavioral and brain sciences, 28(5), 675-691.

  • Stout, D., & Hecht, E. E. (2017). Evolutionary neuroscience of cumulative culture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(30), 7861-7868.

7. Clinical disorders and self-other distinction

Key paper:

  • Steinbeis, N. (2016). The role of self–other distinction in understanding others' mental and emotional states: neurocognitive mechanisms in children and adults. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1686), 20150074.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Cascio, C. J., Foss-Feig, J. H., Burnette, C. P., Heacock, J. L., & Cosby, A. A. (2012). The rubber hand illusion in children with autism spectrum disorders: delayed influence of combined tactile and visual input on proprioception. Autism, 16(4), 406-419.

  • Dziobek, I., Preißler, S., Grozdanovic, Z., Heuser, I., Heekeren, H. R., & Roepke, S. (2011). Neuronal correlates of altered empathy and social cognition in borderline personality disorder. Neuroimage, 57(2), 539-548.

  • Dziobek, I., Preißler, S., Grozdanovic, Z., Heuser, I., Heekeren, H. R., & Roepke, S. (2012). “Neuronal correlates of altered empathy and social cognition in borderline personality disorder”: Corrigendum.

  • Lamm, C., Bukowski, H., & Silani, G. (2016). From shared to distinct self–other representations in empathy: evidence from neurotypical function and socio-cognitive disorders. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 371(1686), 20150083.

8. Development of Theory of Mind & Emotion perception

Key Paper:

  • Quesque, F., & Rossetti, Y. (2020). What do theory-of-mind tasks actually measure? Theory and practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15(2), 384-396.

Papers for Presentation by students:

  • Rodger, H., Vizioli, L., Ouyang, X., & Caldara, R. (2015). Mapping the development of facial expression recognition. Developmental Science, 18(6), 926-939.

  • Liu, D., Sabbagh, M. A., Gehring, W. J., & Wellman, H. M. (2009). Neural correlates of children’s theory of mind development. Child Development, 80(2), 318-326.

Contact information

Dr. David Vogelsang